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How I got the shot

How I got the shot
Scientists documenting the Milky Way. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

We hiked a couple of hundred yards through Canyonlands with cameras and tripods to a broad rock on a plateau. I loaded my old

Nikon

-F camera with a roll of Fuji 800 negative film. The camera is a simple, spring-wound body that I bought during my 1972 tour of duty as a soldier in Vietnam. The high-speed film is very light-sensitive and renders colors accurately. I chose a 50-millimeter lens with a "fast" aperture of f-1.4.

I stumbled around in the dark to compose the scene, spread the tripod legs to get the camera less than a foot off the ground, then followed the steps that I had learned over many years of photographing celestial scenes to include earthly subjects.

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1.

Set the lens to an aperture of f.8.

2

.

Focused on the scientists and their equipment.

3.

Locked the shutter open.

4.

Fired a strobe light from the right side out of the picture.

5.

Refocused the lens to infinity to render the distant stars sharp.

6.

Opened the aperture all the way to f-1.4 to "gulp in" the dim starlight.

7.

Counted out loud to 50.

8.

Closed the shutter.

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